There were some tears and some fears as Andy Murray resumed his love affair with Queen’s on Tuesday, winning his first match back on the grass against Benoit Paire, 6-3 6-2, and joining Dan Evans in the second round after the British No 1 defeated Alexei Popyrin in straight sets.
The body's old,. But I did quite well today in terms of my movement. It's my first match on grass in three years and I've only played three or four practice sets in the build-up to this so I didn't know exactly how I was going to play or feel but I think for a first match it was good. Andy Murray
The 5-time cinch Championships winner had not played a grass court singles match since 2018, and he made light work of the Frenchman.
“I love it,” 34-year Murray said in his post-match interview in front of the fans. “I love playing tennis.
“I just really want to play. I have not really had the opportunity to do that the past few years. When I have, it’s been pretty fleeting.
“[This was the] first singles match I got to play on grass in three years. Not a lot of stuff has happened in that period, as well. It’s not like a whole lot has gone on. I was just happy to be out there playing, doing well.
“There are obviously a lot of doubts as well when you haven’t hardly played. But then, like I kept saying, in the back of my mind and in practice and stuff, I put in so much work and have done so much good stuff.
“I’m really proud of what my attitude has been like in terms of feeling the various setbacks and everything and [that I have] kept going.”
The competitive fire and love for the sport burns as bright as ever, but an emotional Murray fully realises that there are now constraints on his physical prowess.
“The body’s old,” admitted Murray. “But I did quite well today in terms of my movement.
“It’s my first match on grass in three years and I’ve only played three or four practice sets in the build-up to this so I didn’t know exactly how I was going to play or feel but I think for a first match it was good.”
Murray, who contemplated retirement in 2018 before undergoing hip resurfacing surgery, was side-lined for much of the 2019 and 2020 seasons during his recovery.
The former World No 1 stepped away from tennis again three months ago, shortly before he and his wife, Kim, welcomed their fourth child.
Murray is at home on grass, where he now holds a 108-21 record, with his 83.7 winning percentage on grass better than his rate on any other surface.
Walking onto centre court on Tuesday, the Scot admitted he was ‘really nervous’.
“Once I got out there, I actually felt good,” he said. “[In] the buildup to it, there are obviously nerves.
“I was laughing to myself, [I] went to the bathroom like half an hour before the match. [It was] probably like the fourth time I had been in about 45 minutes.
“I was just laughing, because I still get nervous, obviously, before I go out to play. But you have to remind yourself in those moments just to trust yourself, and so I was definitely nervous.”
He was complete control on Tuesday, on a court he knows well, and didn’t face a break point in two sets against Paire.
Murray fired 20 winners and 13 unforced errors, and kept his opponent contained to 15 and 6 respectively in a match lasting just 64 minutes.
He will next face top seed Matteo Berrettini in the second round, after the Italian powered past his fellow countryman Stefano Travaglia, 7-6(5) 7-6(4), earlier in the day.
“Berrettini is obviously a top player, top seed here,” said Murray. “He had a really strong French Open and I need to play one level up from today if I want to do well there.”
Dan Evans also looked comfortable in his opening match, with the British No 1 overcoming Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 6-4 6-4 on Centre Court.
Evans, who currently sits at a career-high ranking of 25 in the world and is seeded 6th this week, took a tight first set courtesy of a late break at 5-4.
An early break in the second put the 31-year-old firmly in control and he wrapped up a straight sets win in an hour and 25 minutes.
“It was great to be back,” Evans said. “There was a great atmosphere and it was good to be back in front of a very nice crowd.”
Evans, who beat World No 1 Novak Djokovic earlier this year, added: “That gave me a lot of confidence but you’ve still got to come out and win the matches.
“I was a bit nervous, to be honest, but I’m happy to come through and hopefully win a few more this week.”
With Evans and Murray both victorious, it marked the first time 4 British players have won a match at The Queen’s Club since 2005, the year Murray made his tournament debut and claimed his first ATP Tour match win.
Back then Murray was joined by Tim Henman, Jamie Delgado and Greg Rusedski. This year, he is joined by Evans, Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper.